ABC Everyday / By Eliza Hull
To any person with a disability about to dive into the unknown world of parenting, I hope this series will help you know that We've Got This. (ABC Everyday: Stacy Gougoulis)
I have a neurological condition, Charcot Marie Tooth.
When I became pregnant three years ago, I was given a huge pile of parenting books. What to Expect When You're Expecting. Baby Love. On Becoming Baby Wise. All of the titles.
But where was I represented? Where were any parents with disabilities?
They weren't on TV, either. I couldn't even think of any movies that accurately represented a parent with a disability.
Yet in Australia, 20 per cent of households has a parent with a disability. So where were we?
My theory is that parents with disabilities are often not represented in the media because there is still a societal view that people with disabilities shouldn't be parents.
There is a view that if we have complex needs of our own, how could we possibly look after another person?
I decided to start a project that set out to change these misconceptions, and I will be forever grateful the ABC embraced the idea.
Making the series We've Got This: Parenting with a Disability has been a life-changing eight months.
As the ABC's 2018 Regional Storyteller Scholarship recipient, I have learnt more about myself than I could have imagined, and I'm prouder than ever to be a disabled woman and parent.
We, as parents with disabilities, are successfully parenting. Representing this, in part, is breaking down societal barriers and misconceptions.
I will never forget the first email from a member of the general public who had previously held the belief that parents with intellectual disabilities shouldn't parent, but changed their mind after listening to the first episode. This reiterated to me the importance of sharing these stories; stories that may have previously gone unheard.
My aim throughout the series was to share the stories of parents with disabilities in a way that accurately represented their lives.
I didn't want to sensationalise it or make it inspirational. I wanted to normalise it.
Because people with disabilities are parenting. They're in relationships. They have desires, dreams, hopes, needs. And not only are they having children, they're successfully creating families that are absolutely thriving.
Throughout my scholarship I worked out of ABC Central Victoria and travelled around the country interviewing parents with disabilities. These interviews became an eight-part audio series with Radio National Life Matters, with articles on ABC Everyday.
The reaction has been overwhelming. I feel people are ready for these stories, and I am very proud they have begun a wider conversation.
Eliza with Carol and D'arcy Taylor, a mother and son featured in We've Got This. (ABC: Dan Battley)
I found the most common challenge each parent experienced happened in the community. They came from assumptions from strangers that our children must be looking after us, or that disability is inherently something negative, or horrible.
Through more representation of people with disabilities, I feel we as a community are breaking down some of these stereotypes and beliefs. Now, more than ever, there is talk about diversity, about sharing our stories, varied as they are.
Representation is vital in creating an inclusive society.
Making this series I learnt that through having a disability, parents give a beautiful and unique experience to their children.
They grow up in a home where difference is embraced, not feared.
I want to thank everybody at the ABC who has enabled this series to happen. I feel honoured to have the opportunity. The Regional Storyteller Scholarship is important because it is disability led. It gave me, and many others who told their very personal stories, a voice.
I also want to thank the wonderful parents who opened their homes and shared their experiences.
To any person with a disability about to dive into the unknown world of parenting, I hope this series will help you know that, like all parents who took part in this series, and any parent with a disability, We've Got This.
Applications are now open for the next ABC Regional Storyteller Scholarship. If you're a content maker living with disability in Regional Australia, apply now.
Posted Mon 10 Dec 2018 at 2:13pm, updated Wed 16 Dec 2020 at 2:17pm